Barring injury between now and then, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng surely would have received a bigger payday next summer than even the four-year, $64 million contract extension he signed Monday.
But there’s a reason he bought a home in the Twin Cities last summer. There’s a reason he signed before Monday’s 11 p.m. deadline rather than wait until July, when he would have become a restricted free agent.
“I want to be here,” he said before Tuesday’s home opener against a shorthanded Memphis team. “I don’t like moving around back and forth. I like the organization, great people. They help you. It’s an easy task for me being here. My task is just playing basketball. … I wanted to be here, and they got it done.”
A Monday afternoon conversation with Wolves owner Glen Taylor helped convince him. He essentially accepted the same contract free agent Timofey Mozgov signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and Ian Mahinmi signed with Washington last summer. But it was not nearly the four-year, $100 million contract Steven Adams signed with Oklahoma City on Monday.
“I’d rather take the money now than wait and get a different offer,” Dieng said. “If I go to another team, am I going to be happy? I don’t know. I feel comfortable with my guys here. I feel comfortable with the team. So I might as well take the money. To me, after over $10 million you can do whatever you want. The money wasn’t the issue.”
Dieng already has done plenty, with a Minneapolis nonprofit organization called Matter and the Wolves’ Fast-Break Foundation, to help rebuild and equip a hospital back home in Senegal. Now he can do more.
“I mean, it’s good,” Dieng said. “It doesn’t matter how much you make but what you can do with it. You understand? I’m sure a lot of people make more money than I did before and they didn’t do the right thing with it. I think I always wanted to help, and I will keep helping. I’ll do the best of my ability to keep helping and try to make people’s lives better.”
Dieng’s extension could give the Wolves additional flexibility when it comes time to sign their young stars to maximum or near-maximum deals. Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau deemed it important simply because his team keeps a good, improving 26-year-old player and former NCAA champion through 2021.
“I think it’s important for the organization,” Thibodeau said. “He embodies all the things we’re looking for. He has had a very good start to his career. He gets better and better, but it’s also who he is: his character, his intelligence, his drive. I think those things are important.”
Bazz keeps the faith
Forward Shabazz Muhammad will become a restricted free agent in July after he did not reach an agreement with the Wolves on an extension.
Asked if he is disappointed, Muhammad said, “Not at all. I’m still confident. Coach is still confident in me. In July, my rights are still here. They have the opportunity to sign me. I love it here and I want to be here long-term. We’ll see what goes down.”
• Memphis guard Tony Allen made his season debut, coming off the bench after he missed the first three games because of a knee injury.
• Former Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff returned to Target Center as an assistant to a longtime friend, new Grizzlies coach David Fizdale.
• Memphis played at Target Center for the second time in two weeks. The two teams play four times, including a preseason game, in a month. “I might get a place here,” Fizdale said.